- I totally get the fascination with Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. They are the 2011 Draft's versions of Tim Tebow: both are run-first, athletic quarterbacks that won a great deal at the college level. And like Tebow, both need 2-3 years on the bench developing. You may disagree with that statement, but look at other run-first college quarterbacks, and how they transitioned to the pro game. Despite Denver's Tebow-mania, he was pretty average as pro quarterback for three games. Vince Young has won a lot, but that's been more a function of Chris Johnson and a good defense. Young was rushed into action, and still isn't a NFL quarterback that reads the field well. Michael Vick only this past year became a complete quarterback. It took years behind Joe Montana for Steve Young to transition. If you want Kaepernick or Newton, you're also OK with 2-3 more years with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm.
- While we're on developing quarterbacks, if I'm taking a needs-a-lot of-development college quarterback like Tebow, Kaepernick or Newton, he needs to bring more than just athleticism. I was all on-board the Tebow train last year. Tebow has some of the best leadership and mental toughness intangibles that I've ever seen. He wills teams to wins. I haven't seen that from either Kaepernick or Newton. Tebow also won three year's worth of games in the toughest conference in college football. Newton did it for a year. Kaepernick plays in a weak sister conference. Not that either can't play, but both need to impress during chalk talks and background checks. Like really impress. Being the second coming of Randall Cunningham does nothing for me if you can't read a defense.
- I totally don't get the fascination with drafting an inside linebacker at 34th overall. Martez Wilson is a nice player, but picking an inside linebacker? The Bills play a variation of the Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4. The inside linebackers don't need to be great athletes. They do need to be instinctive, shred blocks well, and tackle well. Those kinds of guys can be found in rounds four through seven. Unless Patrick Willis is available, a 3-4 inside linebacker in the first three rounds seems like a mismatch of requirement and value. Buddy Nix seems to agree. In his 8 years with the Chargers, most of the time serving as assistant GM, they drafted an inside linebacker high twice in eight drafts. Both were third rounders.
- I'm really warming to the idea of a Von Miller - quarterback first-second round combo. I still like Blaine Gabbert at 3rd overall. But I'd be happy with the former scenario. Contrary to the inside linebacker positions, a 3-4 team can never have enough edge rushers. I'm going after Matthias Kiwanuka to play left outside linebacker if I'm in charge, and still maybe drafting Miller. That does create a log-jam at outside linebacker with Shawne Merriman, Kiwanuka, Miller, Arthur Moats, and Chris Kelsay. That's OK. The Giants treat their defensive ends the same way. They regularly field 3-to-4 ends on passing downs, each that can beat their blocker one-on-one and get to the quarterback. It's interesting to note that the Giants are also one of the few teams that Tom Brady doesn't play great against, mostly because they disrupt his rhythm with a four-man rush. Buffalo needs to emulate that.
- Speaking of second round quarterback, sign me up for Christian Ponder or Jake Locker, if he falls that far. Ponder looks like a Drew Brees / Aaron Rodgers type of quarterback that can throw darts all day. Ponder meets many of the quarterback metrics that grade completion percentage, time in college, etc. If he can show off a stronger than anticipated arm at his pro day, sign me up. Locker's taken a tumble, but at 34, he'd be too good to pass up. He's an athlete along the lines of Kaepernick and Newton and needs development time, but he's spent two years making pro reads and working his mechanics, so he's ahead of them time-wise. He's also got Tebow-esque intangibles. He'd be the perfect guy for Gailey to coach up, because he has the best set of tools out there, including a hyper-fast release and a very strong arm. I think his accuracy is a waste-down issue that can be fixed.
- That all said, I'm still mostly on-baord with Gabbert at 3. Run and stop the run isn't the means for success anymore. Having a franchise quarterback, and having a pass rush that can get to the other team's quarterback is the new means to success. It's been that way for a few years now, and the Super Bowl was the exclaimation point to the shift.
- But...... I'm super intrigued with a shift that I see from Bill Belichick. The Pats drafted two tight ends, traded Randy Moss, and ran more than in the past, and I wonder if he's onto seomthing. With so many teams running spread formations, and designing defenses to stop opposing spreads, I wonder what a good ol'fashioned smash mouth offense would do? The Jets and Steelers have had success when they've committed heavily to the run. Sometimes going counter-trend means being first or nearly first, and that can mean success. Buffalo was early to the renewed 46 defense trend, and fielded great defenses under Jerry Gray. Buffalo stayed 3-4 when the entire league abandoned the defense, and were subsequently hard to play against. Buffalo was five years late to the Tampa 2 party, and it showed. Maybe going counter-trend has some merits.
- Finally, this may not be popular, but I think the Pittsburgh Super Bowl loss and Dick LeBeau's refusal to shift his defense around in the Super Bowl played a huge part in their loss. That's treason in Steeler country, but hear me out. Pittsburgh's defensive strength lie in Troy Polamalu's ability to move around, their four great linebackers, and Casey Hampton eating up blocks. Pittsburgh's defensive design in the Super Bowl had Hampton out of the game on passing downs, and Polamalu 15 yards off the line of scrimmage most of the game. And they continually tried to cover Green Bay slot receivers with linebackers. Really? Why not play a 1-4-6, with Hampton as the lone down lineman, and 3 corners and 3 safeties? That would allow Polamalu to roam, and allow for more blitzing with Hampton taking up blocks. It wouldn't work all the time, but as a variation, it would have at least played to strengths of the personnel. A plan that has Polamalu or an inside linebacker covering Greg Jennings in the slot is foolish, or stubborn. I take the latter.